When Fernando Torres made his controversial move to Chelsea at the end of the January transfer window, his main reason for leaving Liverpool was the opportunity to showcase his talent on Europe’s biggest stage, the UEFA Champions League. Ten weeks on and without a Chelsea goal or match winning performance to his name, is Wednesday nights Quarter Final clash with Manchester United Torres’ time to prove to everyone that he is not an expensive flop and still one of the most feared front men in the world?
It is Torres’ former employers whose fans regularly coin the phrase ‘Form is temporary, class is permanent’ and the £50 million man will be hoping that he is no exception. Many believe that it is only a matter of time before the striker starts banging in the goals again and who would bet against him notching his first Chelsea goal in undoubtedly his biggest club game for almost three years. Torres’ predicament is certainly a nice sideshow to what is a hugely important contest and one in which Sir Alex Ferguson’s charges will be desperate to gain the upper hand in.
The arch-rivals meet in the competition for the first time since United’s famous 6-5 victory on penalties at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow back in 2008. The Blues will be seeking revenge and have a great record against the Red Devils having defeated them in 6 of the last 10 matches at Stamford Bridge. For anyone thinking that this may play a part in swinging this first game in Chelsea’s favour should think on though, as United’s away record in the Champions league is second to none having only lost once in their last 21 away matches, that being a 2-1 defeat to Bayern Munich last term at the Allianz Arena.
United come into the clash on the back of a stirring comeback against West Ham at the weekend which saw a sublime Wayne Rooney hat-trick and another goal from Javier Hernandez secure a 4-2 victory. United, with three forwards in fine fettle and an ever improving central defensive pairing of Nemanja Vidic and Chris Smalling, will be confident of getting a result to take back to Old Trafford despite a 2-1 defeat at Stamford Bridge in the Premier League in March.
The fortress that was Stamford Bridge during Jose Mourinho’s spell in charge has been diminished somewhat this season following home defeats to Liverpool and a 3-0 drubbing by Sunderland. In contrast to their patchy league form which has seen the London club stutter over the past three to four months, the Blues have been in far more impressive form in the Champions League despite weaker opposition in the shape of F.C Copenhagen and MSK Zilina. The signing of David Luiz, which went by quite unnoticeably next to £50 million man Torres has been a revelation, the centre back putting in a string of highly impressive performances which have also complemented John Terry’s more aggressive style of defending. Luiz, a scorer when Chelsea last beat United at the Bridge, will unfortunately for the Blues be unavailable for this tie, having already played for Benfica in this year’s competition.
It is always hard to predict a winner when two English teams of such a high calibre meet in Europe. This has been proven in the clashes between Arsenal and Liverpool and Chelsea and Liverpool in the last 6 years. This writer most certainly envisages a tight affair where one moment of brilliance could shape the game and the tie as a whole. Sir Alex will be hopeful, with the firepower at his disposal of sneaking an away goal whilst Carlo Ancelotti will be looking for a magic spark from Torres who he has recently admitted ‘must improve’ in Chelsea Blue.
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